Anyone who’s spent at least a little bit of time in a garden knows earthworms are great. And their poop is great, too!
That’s why many gardeners who want to avoid using chemical fertilizers turn to vermiculture, the practice of cultivating worms for compost.
Worm poop, or castings, is produced as worms eat their way through material. This natural fertilizer provides readily available nutrients that you can use to amend your beds for extra plant food.
“Worm castings are a really good source of nitrogen, among other things,” said Moore Farms Botanical Garden Educator Kelli Meeker. “Generally, most gardens already have worm activity. They help by decomposing dead plant material and by aerating the soil.”
You don’t need an expansive worm farm to reap the benefits of vermiculture. Meeker cultivates hers in two 5-gallon buckets kept in the main office at Moore Farms Botanical Garden. She uses red wigglers – well liked because they’re good eaters – purchased from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm.
One bucket with holes punched in the bottom sits inside the other. The inside bucket is filled with shredded paper and worms. As the worms eat the paper, castings are produced. The bottom bucket collects excess moisture.
“You always want to keep the paper moist because worms breathe through their skin,” Meeker said. “Don’t leave the bucket in direct sunlight or exposed to cold temperatures.”
Food scraps can be used in lieu of paper, but Meeker cautions that it may take the worms longer to eat through that than paper.
To collect the castings, Meeker picks them out by hand. It’s labor intensive, sure, but the benefits to the garden are worth it.